For many advisers and planners, social media can be a hugely useful way of distributing content, engaging with potential clients and ultimately generating new enquiries.
However, it’s often difficult to devote as much time as you would like to it, leading to inconsistency in ‘real-time’ posting. One solution is scheduling; writing a post, or series of posts and setting them to be published at a date / time in the future.
For some, this is a pragmatic solution to a specific problem. For others, it’s spammy and the opposite of what social media should be about; spontaneous interaction and engagement.
We therefore thought we’d look at some of the pros and cons of scheduling your social media posts.
Consistency: You might start the day with every intention of posting regularly, but events take over and there’s no guarantee you will be available to post as you planned. There’s no doubt that scheduling allows you to be more consistent and avoids potentially large gaps between posts.
Delegation: Scheduling posts allows you to delegate the task of writing and adding them to your platform of choice. Remember though, even if you didn’t write or post them, you are still ultimately responsible for the content; it’s vital you check each post before publication, or that you have complete trust in the knowledge, skill and experience of the person writing for you.
Hitting peak periods: Social media posts have a notoriously short shelf-life. Consequently, you need to be active when your target audience is most likely to be online. For example, we find posts relatively early in the morning (7.30 – 8.00 am) work well, as many advisers and planners check social media on their commute or when they hit their desk and take their first caffeine injection of the day. The same is true of evenings and, perhaps surprisingly, Saturday mornings.
We recommend using the analytics and insights tools social media platforms make available, to understand the most effective time to post and therefore schedule messages if you aren’t around to post in ‘real-time.’
Saving time: Writing posts for the coming days in one sitting allows you to focus exclusively on the task, save precious time and ensure that nothing gets missed. It can also be sensible if you are promoting a specific event or launch and want to ensure your posts follow a logical sequence.
Working in different time zones: If you have clients in different time zones, posting in ‘real-time’ might be tricky; therefore, scheduling posts can make sense.
Keeping compliance happy: There are still some compliance departments who believe they need to approve everything you post on social media. Producing a list of posts, seeking approval and then scheduling them is one way around this issue. There are two others I can think of:
- Don’t post financial promotions; they don’t work, and avoiding them mean your posts (hopefully) won’t need prior approval
- Change your compliance provider to one that isn’t living in the dark ages!
Lower engagement: One of the key reasons for scheduling is that you aren’t around to post them in ‘real-time’. By extension, you might not be able to quickly respond to replies, deal with comments or answer questions. Furthermore, scheduled messages often lack the spontaneity of a ‘real-time’ posts. That’s probably why content marketing expert, Roger Edwards, found in tests that the scheduled posts received lower engagement than those posted in ‘real-time’.
Tipping the balance towards self-promotion: Social media is most effective when people engage, talk to each other, exchange views (preferably not about Brexit!) and debate.
It’s therefore important to strike the right balance between broadcasting (promoting things you want your audience to read, watch or listen to) and engaging. Using one of the many tools available, such as Hootsuite or Buffer, scheduling posts is relatively straightforward; it’s therefore easy to get carried away, tipping the balance towards broadcasting and away from engaging.
Poor timing: Scheduled tweets stand out like a sore thumb when a major news story breaks. While they are unlikely to earn you a mention in the next Jon Ronson book (if you’ve not read ‘So you’ve been publicly shamed’, you should, it’s great), you nevertheless run the risk of looking insensitive or crass. Naturally, this problem can be avoided by staying on the ball and pausing posts at certain times.
Avoiding mistakes: As hard as you try to avoid it, sometimes mistakes happen; a link might be broken, or a grammatical error might creep in. If that happens on a scheduled post and you’re not immediately available to edit the post or deal with responses, it could damage your reputation.
On the flip side though, scheduling posts gives you the opportunity to carefully check everything is working as it should before it goes live.
You can’t react to events: If you only ever schedule posts and add nothing in ‘real-time’, it becomes impossible to react to events. For example, on the morning I wrote this piece my social media feed was dominated by warnings of financial scams. That’s probably something you should be alerting your followers to. If you completely outsource your social media management to someone else, never posting in ‘real-time’, how can you react to stories such as this?
There’s probably no right answer
I’ve taken the view that we won’t schedule posts; if I’m not around to respond to something we’ve put on Twitter or LinkedIn, I won’t post.
I can see the benefits though and I’m not against it, providing there’s a balance struck between scheduled and ‘real-time’ posts. It’s also important to build flexibility into your process so posts can be paused or edited if necessary.
Words of warning
Scheduling posts isn’t a nirvana, allowing you to dominate social media. You must still work hard; writing the post, selecting images (remember, those posts with images will perform better than those without) and scheduling them.
However, while tools such as Hootsuite and Buffer make life easier, they come with a hidden danger; namely, a temptation to post the same message across multiple social media channels. Aside from the fact the social media channels hate it, there are three reasons why duplicate posting should be avoided:
- If I’m seeing the same message on say Twitter and Facebook, what additional value do I get from connecting with you on both?
- We often see identical messages on our timeline, posted at the same time, from a personal and corporate account. This is a particular problem on Twitter and just looks lazy. Again, what value am I getting from connecting with both your personal and corporate accounts?
- All social media channels work slightly differently; writing one message and expecting it to display correctly on each channel is a mistake. Each has their own character limits and quirks: for example, Twitter and LinkedIn use hashtags, but they are less effective on Facebook.
The main problem most people seem to have with scheduled posts is that they are less spontaneous; frankly, they are often dull and simply an exercise in self-promotion, with the account set firmly onto broadcast mode.
However, done well, with the necessary checks and balances in place, and combined with ‘real-time’ posts, I can see the benefit.